Musgrave Park tent city relocated for second year because of festival

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Tenants living in Brisbane’s Musgrave Park fear they will be booted from the leafy grounds, with a festival set to take over in the coming month.

Currently housing more than 60 tents, the park is an example of Australia’s housing crisis, which sees the country’s rental vacancy rate at a catastrophic one per cent.

Homelessness figures at an all time high, with even full-time workers resorting to sleeping in their cars or setting up camp in local parks as a result.

Every capital city — except Canberra and Hobart – is less affordable now than it was a year ago.

According to the latest Rental Affordability Index, renters are worse off now than in 2019.

Regional Queensland is now the least affordable place in Australia to rent, the Index shows, with renters spending 30 per cent of their income on rent – the standard threshold for rental stress. As a result — more and more are being forced to the streets.

Speaking to A Current Affair, Queensland man Jimmy and his dog were forced into a tent at Musgrave Park for the first time last week.

“I found out the rent [the new tenants] are paying is like double what we were,” he said, adding he moved to the park where he met Paul Slater who runs the Northwest Community Group, a charity to help the homeless.

Upon meeting, Mr Slater set Jimmy and his four-legged friend up with a tent and place to sleep. Mr Slater, who supports and distributes supplies to people experiencing homelessness, said those living in tents are of all ages and come from all walks of life.

Just recently, he supplied a tent to an 18-year-old French backpacker who couldn’t find work, and helped relocate a pair of 50-year-old women to Musgrave Park where they could be around others.

But all Mr Slater’s work — and the stability of having a tent to call home — could be thrown in the air next month, when a festival takes over Musgrave Park next month.

“We’re not really sure what the plan is and what they’re going to do,” Paul said. “It’s actually a big worry for us and for the residents, they’re coming to me every day and asking have you heard what’s going on, are we going to have somewhere to sleep?”

Brisbane City Council said that while the festival will take place again this year — as it did in 2023 — support will be given to those occupying tents.

“Council has a strict process in place to ensure occupied tents aren’t removed,” a council spokesperson said.

“Last year, we worked with organisers and the State Government to ensure the Paniyiri Festival proceeded with support provided to those sleeping rough and we’re hopeful the same can occur this year.

“Council has a longstanding working relationship with Mr Slater and the Northwest Community group and disused tents are returned to Mr Slater when appropriate and practical.”

While it is unclear where those who currently occupy Musgrave Park will stay throughout the duration of the festival, Department of Housing’s Vicky Meyer told ACA that crews were on the ground five days a week trying to find solutions to the situation.

“Homelessness is complex and there might be a number of reasons why someone might not choose to accept accommodation, but the team will be ready to provide that support when they’re ready to accept it,” the statement read.

Mr Slater said the current situation is one of the country’s “biggest emergencies”.

“A lot of these people are just out on their luck. They’re not necessarily people who abuse substances or people that have mental health issues. Some of them are just people who missed their rent payment and were couch surfing for a couple of months,” he said.

“It’s one of the biggest emergencies. There’s no emergency accommodation available. If you want to call the homeless hotline today, they will tell you that there’s nothing available in the whole of Queensland.”

“Even if you can get into a boarding houses they are really unsafe environments for people.”

Mr Slater said state and federal governments desperately need to provide affordable housing options, such as the Pinkenba quarantine facility which the Queensland government will convert into emergency accommodation as part of a $10 million commitment.

“They need to fund affordable housing urgently. There is no affordable housing, there’s no social housing,” he said.

“I think Pinkenba is a good stopgap to try and look after a lot of people that are struggling right now. But there needs to be long term solutions.”

Brisbane City Council agreed, saying it was “unacceptable” that people slept on the street while the quarantine facility “sits idle and unused”.

“It is completely unacceptable for people to be living in tents and cars while the taxpayer-funded 500-bed Pinkenba quarantine facility sits idle and unused.”

– with Brielle Burns

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